2020 has been a decidedly fun-less year. I don’t need to tell you this; you’re beginning every email with the hope that this finds you well during this difficult and uncertain time, you’re sporting some very interesting mask-shaped facial tan lines, you’re living through it as we all are. Enter The Jaded Hearts Club with their debut album You’ve Always Been Here.
Don’t be fooled by their strictly monochromatic uniforms and proclivity for black and white video filters, they’re set on having fun. Admittedly, seeing the likes of Matt Bellamy (Muse), Graham Coxon (Blur), Miles Kane (The Last Shadow Puppets), Sean Payne (The Zutons), Nic Cester (Jet) and Jamie Davis in an all-leather-jacketed ‘supergroup’ might initially strike fear into the heart. Have they collectively gone all Dad Rock on us? Well, yes. But who’s to say that’s a bad thing? This surely isn’t an abandonment of their day jobs, but a gathering of well-established musicians set on letting their hair down.
Sure, it’s nothing groundbreaking- the record is, after all, all covers- familiar northern soul, classic R&B and rock ’n’ roll tracks that you’re sure to have heard in an advert before, if not recognise by name, but, as far as I can see, You’ve Always Been Here has the potential to reclaim a little musical joy this year- if not for the listener, certainly for the band themselves. In 2020, a year intent on sapping the joy of performance from artists everywhere, The Jaded Hearts Club front allows its members a little shot of that sapped joy.
The star-power of the band’s line up perhaps endangers the listener of taking You’ve Always Been Here deadly seriously; indeed, without this star-power such an album would likely be wholly overlooked. For existing fans of any of the members’ respective previous projects, however, there is a joy in seeing them have a bit of a laugh playing songs they so clearly love.
There are certainly moments in which the extensive solo talents of the members work in a kind of ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ way; like when, as a child, you’d excitedly mix all the colours only to end up with a disappointing greyish-brown, the Jaded Hearts’ six distinct musical personalities have the potential to drown each other out. Take Coxon for example- a later addition to the Hearts’ line-up- though able to demonstrate oodles of technical skill (take his squealing guitar work all throughout I Put A Spell On You, for example) his innate Coxon-ness is… not here. The closing track, Fever, so downplays Bellamy’s arena-filling vocal ability that he’s reduced to an uncomfortable near-whisper throughout. Perhaps in choosing to cover such very well known songs, having to sacrifice the space for the performers’ spontaneous isms is inescapable.
In places, though, the band wholly succeeds in re-energising deserving classics. Compared to the originals, bound by the production restrictions set by their 50s and 60s (and in one case, 30s) release dates, The Jaded Hearts Club versions can be heavy and full and with as much distortion as you like.
You’ve Always Been Here will, no doubt, be divisive for fans- fans both of the respective members and of the songs themselves- but what product of this year isn’t? As I see it, the listener has two options. They could see this record through bleak-tinted, 2020 spectacles- as a disappointingly unremarkable new project from fractions one or more of their favourite bands. Or, they could take this record as a small respite, listen to some inarguably talented musicians have fun covering some great songs, and go have a dance in their living room.